David Irving stated at the Tenth International Revisionist Conference, “… for twenty years I’ve been saying: ‘I’ll give a thousand pounds to anyone who can find one single war-time document showing that Adolf Hitler even knew about … whatever was going on …! ’” (para. 25, lines 6-8). The present essay attempts to find out, why Irving places such emphasis on documentary evidence and how his arguments can be countered in the absence of relevant documents.
In a first part, I will name and explain David Irvin’s arguments (especially concerning documentary evidence) to deny the existence of the Holocaust. Then in a second part, I will list the arguments which prove that the holocaust happened. Finally, I will make a synthesis of both the arguments for and against the existence of the holocaust. As Evans reminded us, the term Holocaust was borrowed from an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, where it “originally meant a burnt sacrificed offering dedicated exclusively to God” (104).
In modern history, the definition is applied to the Jews, who “were brutally murdered in the name of ethnic purity” (Evans 104). The Holocaust, or the ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Question’, is defined here as the part of “Germany’s comprehensive plan for the racial reconstruction of the east” (Baranowski 1168). In other words, it is conceptualised as a systematic Nazi racial genocide in regard to Jews, between 5 to 6 million of which have been murdered in many atrocious ways, including mass gassings at the death camps (e. . , Auschwitz) and the ghettos, during the World War II on the territory of Nazi-dominated Europe. David Irvin grounded his denial of the Holocaust on the absence of scientific facts proving the contrary. Irvin was invited as an expert witness to qualify the so-called Leuchter Report (the Ernst Zundel case 1988), which denied the fact of many people having been murdered in the crematoria and the gas chambers on the basis of the laboratory tests.
The notorious historian concluded: I knew that this was an exact result. You have to accept that, if there is no evidence anywhere in the archives that there were any gassings going on; that if there’s not one single German document that refers to the gassings of human beings — not one wartime German document; and if there is no reference anywhere in the German archives to anybody giving orders for the gassings of people, and if, on the other hand, the forensic tests of the laboratories, of the crematoria, and the gas chambers and Auschwitz and so on, show that there is no trace, no significant residue whatsoever of a cyanide compound, than this can all only mean one thing. Irving, para. 15, lines 4-12) The thing that Irvin denied was the fact of mass destructions of the Jews by Nazis. The concentration camp Auschwitz was called “the battleship” (Irving, para. 17, line 6) between the Holocaust deniers and the Holocaust defenders. Irvin referred to the Auschwitz death books, which were published by Russian historians in 1989. There a total of 74,000 deaths were reported against the number of 5 to 6 million as it had been stated before.
To go further, the British historian paraphrased Arno Mayer, the professor of Princeton University, who stated in his book Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? that almost fifty per cent of the Auschwitz campers died of natural causes “whatever you can call natural causes in wartime” (Irving, para. 18, line 5). Let’s be generous and say 40,000 may have been killed in Auschwitz over the three years — that’s a bad figure! That’s a grave crime, it’s almost as many people as we British killed in Hamburg in one night. (Irving, para. 18, lines 7-9)
Furthermore, Irving relied on the decoded daily reports between the commandant of Auschwitz (as well as the heads of all the other concentration camps) and the headquarters in Berlin, which were submitted later to the British secret service archives. Irving referred to the findings of a British official government historian, Professor F. H. Hinsley, who concluded: Each day the daily telegrams reported back to Berlin: the number of prisoners who had arrived that morning at each camp; the number of prisoners who left that day from each camp; the number of prisoners left in each camp at the end of the day.
In addition, under a fourth heading was a category described, oddly enough, as “other losses” – Abgange aller Art. And the British secret service deduced that “other losses” were mostly losses caused by deaths. According to the British official history says, “in the case of Auschwitz, most of these other losses turned out to have been due to illness. The remainder were partly accounted for by executions, which are described as having been executions by hanging and executions by shooting.
There are no references to any gassings in Auschwitz. ” (Irving para. 28) Irving also argued the genuineness of some of the film episodes (Der Tod: Ein Meister aus Deutschland [Death: A Master from Germany] by Leo Reusch and Eberhard Jackel) that portrayed “trainloads of Jews being hauled out of a station in Rumania” with the voice-over commenting: “Here they are, being shipped off to the extermination camps at Treblinka and Auschwitz” (Irving para. 34 lines 4-5; 6-8).
The notorious Holocaust denier wrote a letter to Eberhard Jackel, saying: If you look in the railway archives at the Hamburg Hauptbahnhof [Central Station], you’ll find that it is, in fact, a platform of Hamburg Hauptbahnhof in 1946, one year after the war was over. And the correct caption on the photograph is: “Germans from Hamburg packing into a coal train to go on a shopping expedition to the Rhur. ” (Irving para. 35 lines 4-7) Finally, getting interested in the 1938 Goebbels’ diaries, Irving discovered the following facts: a few days after the Anschluss between Germany and Austria, Goebbels writes in his diary a complaint: he says Heydrich, the Chief of the Gestapo, is now down in Vienna, and that Heydrich has ordered the carrying out of a number of forbidden executions and that the Fuhreris hopping mad at this. It’s an interesting point. It’s what we all have suspected was going on: that the underlings were carrying out certain orders and carrying out executions and Hitler was only finding out about these things far too late. (Irving para. 49)
Irving’s denial of the Holocaust was opposed by those who found documentary evidence defending the opposite viewpoint. For example, Keren et al. investigated the gas chambers linked to crematoriums at Auschwitz I and the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps before the Irving-Lipstadt trial. They paid particular attention to the holes in the roofs through which Zyklon B, “a solid carrier for the poison gas hydrogen cyanide” (Keren, McCarthy, and Mazal 68), was believed to flow into the gas chambers of Crematorium I at Auschwitz and Crematoriums II and III the Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Keren et al. referred to the testimonials left by survivors (e. g. , Filip Muller) and former members of the SS (Rudolf Hoss, Pery Broad, and Hans Stark) on behalf of the mass murder by hydrogen cyanide. However, the research group relied rather on modern computer vision techniques and aerial photographing to analyse the crematorium sites in order to locate the aforestated holes and to date their emergence. The scholars grounded their findings on the photographs taken by the Waffen SS and Police Central Construction Board of the Crematorium II in early 1943.
The wartime photographic evidence was supported by a three-dimensional computer model. Examination of Hole 4 in the roof of the Crematorium II provided Keren et al. with enough evidence to refute Holocaust deniers, who “have argued for some time that all holes in the roof of the gas chamber were created after the war” (Keren et al. 76). … Hole 4 effectively rebuts this claim. … at the eastern side of the hole the rebar was bent into loops so as not to pass through the hole….
Both ends of the loops retain firmly embedded in a large chunk of concrete to the east of the hole, contradicting any claim of tampering after the war. … The deliberately looped rebar proves that this hole … was cast at the time the concrete was poured in January 1943. The homicidal intention of crematoriums can be placed at no later than this date, a date literally set in stone. (Keren et al. 76) Besides the testimonials from Stark, who “poured in the Zyklon with his own hands” (Keren et al. 97), Keren et al. ound that “cyanide compounds can still be detected in the chamber’s walls [Crematorium I]” (Keren et al. 97) relying on the Cracow Institute for Forensic Research findings. Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University and the author of the book Denying the Holocaust (1993), who was suited by David Irving in the court for calling him ‘the Holocaust denier’, once concluded that the tendency to undermine the importance of the Holocaust research was caused by those, who were amidst the genocide as victims or observers.
In regard to the American Jewish community, the historian stressed that “[s]urvivors who came to this country in the later 1940s and the 1950s were often discouraged from discussing their experiences” (Lipstadt 195), and “[s]oldiers who liberated camps or who came to camps shortly after liberation and took pictures documenting their experiences came home to discover, often to their great dismay, that their friends and family were not interested in ‘those things’” (Lipstadt 197).
But the deliberate withholding of the Holocaust witnesses from discussing their bitter experiences did not mean that the phenomenon never took place. It seems that the Irving-Lipstadt litigation was not a kind of academic discussion of whether Holocaust happened or not. Rather it was a political and ideological fight over the ways to conceptualise the past. As Evans (24) admitted: Irving was never likely to make an acceptable offer of settlement to Deborah Lipstadt.
For she, rather than her publisher, was the real object of his venom, and there was no way he was going to settle with her. For Irving, Lipstadt was the pointed end of the conspiracy he believed had been working for years to destroy his reputation. Those, who tried to stand against revisionism in the Holocaust studies, could not put up with people sweeping aside the sufferings of the Jews on the basis of figures and controversial testimonials. Actually, both sides referred to the opponents’ falsifying the documents related to the mass extermination of the Jews by the Nazis.
Throughout the whole trial process, Lipstadt stayed silent and did not enter any public discussions with the representative of the denial camp. She broke silence after the Court of Appeal sitting, where Irving’s application was rejected: Her motives in writing what she did about Irving in her book were irrelevant, although no doubt Irving wanted to quiz her about her connections with what he portrayed as the worldwide Jewish conspiracy to silence him.
But this, as the judge repeatedly tried to explain to him, did not matter. What mattered was simply the truth or otherwise of what was on the printed page of Denying the Holocaust. Suitably enough, when Lipstadt finally spoke, after the trial, it was simply to declare that she was happy that the truth of what she had written had been borne out by the trial. (Evans 229) Kulaszka summarised the Holocaust denial viewpoint in eight main issues.
She analysed if it was possible to argue against the issue judging from the correct figure of the Jews killed during World War II, the validity of the Nuremberg Tribunal Judgement in its part where it claimed that the Nazis made soap from the corpses of murdered Jews, the particularities of the January 1942 “Wannsee conference”, the absence of written orders from Hitler to exterminate Europe’s Jews, the role of the Auschwitz gas chambers, the existence of extermination gas chambers in principle, the validity of Rudolf Hoss’ testimonials (an SS officer, the commandant of Auschwitz), and the authenticity of forensic investigations.
Kulaszka concluded: For purposes of their own, powerful special interest groups desperately seek to keep substantive discussion of the Holocaust story taboo. One of the ways they do this is by purposely mischaracterizing revisionist scholars as “deniers. ” But the truth can’t be suppressed forever: There is a very real and growing controversy about what actually happened to Europe’s Jews during World War II. (Discredited Perspective para. 2)
ON the other hand, Evans (109) clarified why the Holocaust revisionism was dangerous and worth fighting against: … much of the writings of the Holocaust deniers seemed neither morally nor politically harmless. On the contrary, a good deal of them seemed to be linked to racial hatred and antisemitic animosity in the most direct possible way. After all, the essence of the Holocaust should not be narrowed to the discussion of how many people precisely were exterminated, and of what race they were.
What does matter is the fact that the mass extermination of people really occurred. The Holocaust deniers’ position seems really strange when they attempt to excuse Hitler from being responsible for the phenomenon, or when they associate the absence of the Holocaust with the substance of soap. So many people, so many testimonials. The Holocaust should be regarded rather as an ideological concept useful for commemorating the past and enhancing the future.
With so many neo-Nazi movements nowadays, it is important to defend all of us against the possible mass extermination and elimination of human dignity and liberty. Whatever are the roots of the Holocaust – whether or not it “proceeded from long-term planning and an equally long-standing anti-Semitism, or from the exigencies of war and the social Darwinian ‘cumulative radicalization’ of the regime” (Baranowski 1168) – it always remains a jeopardy to all human values and progress.